News

Ocracoke has limited power; residents urged to conserve; restoration time looking grim

We will provide additional information as it becomes available. For Ocracoke news including other reports on the power crisis, click here.    

July 29, 2017.  4:33 p.m.

By Connie Leinbach and Peter Vankevich

Update 6:30 p.m.: Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative just posted on their Facebook page that crews have exposed one of the cables, revealing that it was severed by the steel casing. Cooperative crews are working with New River Construction to test the integrity of the other two cables, which remain buried underground, to ensure that only the one cable was damaged.

Once it is confirmed that only one of the three cables has been compromised, CHEC and New River Construction will move forward to splice the cable back together. There are several challenges to overcome before this can happen, as the damaged cable is missing about a two foot section. See Facebook post here.

As of this afternoon, Ocracoke Island is minimally powered via three emergency mobile generators and multiple sources are citing the time to restore power back to normal may be longer  than anticipated.  

The crisis, which began early Thursday morning when PCL Construction accidently drove a steel casing into an underground transmission cable at Bonner Bridge, worsened as Dare County, citing safety issues from a major power outage, has ordered a mandatory evacuation for visitors on Hatteras Island starting at 6 a.m. today. This evacuation order, covering points south of the Bonner Bridge, includes the villages of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco and Hatteras. All National Park Service campgrounds on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands are closed. 

On Ocracoke, additional personnel and equipment arrived via a special Hatteras ferry run at about 3:30 a.m. today to get the generators working. The occasional maintenance outage is to be expected from time to time but our goal is to keep them brief, Tideland reported on its website. At this time, all three circuits are energized and generators are not operating on a rotating schedule.

“We are thankful to several large facilities on the island that have agreed to remain on their privately owned generators to help alleviate the utility load,” Tideland said.

However, strict conservation is still necessary, said Donnie Shumate, Hyde County public information officer, in a press release.

Although residents should only use power for refrigerators, lights and fans, a text message from Tideland at 3:29 p.m. said that islanders can “conservatively use air conditioning and reheat water between 4 p.m today to 8 a.m. tomorrow (Sunday). 

“Use only what you need and stagger use of multiple AC units,” the message said. “The later in the evening you turn on AC the better. If all goes well, we will not issue another advisory until tomorrow morning.”

“This only works if we all work together,” Shumate said.  “If lights start to dim it could indicate the generator is overloading in which case you need to start turning items off again,” he said. “It is always toughest when we first pick up the load, as all the refrigerators and freezers start up simultaneously.”

The three island circuits are as follows:

The northwest circuit includes Howards Pub, Gaffers, the OVFD, the Variety Store, the Anchorage Inn and Marina, the Jolly Roger, the water plant, Ocracoke Seafood Co., NCCAT, Howard Street, the south Ferry Terminal and British Cemetery areas.

The Northeast circuit includes Ocracoke School, the health center, the Flying Melon, Sunset Drive, Pony Island, Oyster Creek and Jackson Dunes.

For Tideland’s updates, visit their Facebook page here  and website here.

Only individuals who are Ocracoke residents, seasonal residents, non-resident property owners, vendors and emergency personnel who display a valid re-entry pass, or who possess some form of documentation proving residency and/or employment, will be allowed access to the island. Any seasonally employed residents that are having issues producing documentation to gain access to the island should call 252-926-4374 for assistance.

The Hyde County Sheriff’s Office is now issuing citations for anyone not in compliance with the evacuation order issued Thursday by the Hyde County Board of Commissioners.

Yesterday, Capt. Jason Daniels went to rental cottages where people had not yet left and warned them they had to leave. If they were still here today, he issued citations which would result in a court appearance. “Unlike a hurricane like Alex, where folks were stranded, there is no excuse this time for them not to leave,” Daniels said.  He did not issue any citations for those in the ferry lines to depart. He added that he believed most visitors have left. 

Those who fail to leave an evacuated area can be found guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor, which hold a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, Shumate said.

All renters should be aware that according to North Carolina general statues, travel insurance claims may be made when a claimant is complying with a mandatory evacuation. Renters should contact their travel insurance policy provider after evacuating from the island.

According to Shumate, at the site of the damaged power cable, engineers are still on-site at the damaged portion of the main transmission line, and are continuing to assess the state of the system. Excavation crews began digging down to the line at around 1 p.m. yesterday.

A trench box was set and a dewatering system is in place to allow crews to dig the final two to three feet out. 

“But problems with silt and mud have prevented them from accessing the line so far,” he said. “Until that happens we will not have any information on the damage or the timetable for repairs.”

Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative warned the repair could take days to weeks depending on how severe the damage to the transmission line is.

Gov. Roy Cooper spoke with local officials from Dare and Hyde counties Saturday, according to a press release.  He offered all available state resources to help get the power back on quickly and deal with the crisis.

“I appreciate the hard work utility crews are doing to get the power back on and we must help them get the work done quickly,” the governor said in his statement.  “This is an incredibly frustrating time for Hatteras and Ocracoke residents and visitors and repairs have to be completed as soon as possible.  Safety is our top concern, but getting power restored quickly is also key for local businesses and our tourism economy during the peak summer travel season.”

The N.C. Ferry Division announced late this afternoon that the Hatteras/Ocracoke runs will revert to a winter schedule effective tomorrow (Sunday) until the mandatory evacuation order is lifted. For the temporary schedule, click here.

As of 8 a.m. today, the N.C. Ferry Division reported that they had evacuated 3,704 people and 1,372 cars. There is currently no wait time at the ferry terminals. Any reservations for ferry service to and from Ocracoke have been canceled for today and tomorrow.

If you have any questions about ferry reservations, cancellations, or refunds, please contact the Ferry Division at 252-926-4374 .

Dare County officials have requested that anyone evacuating from Ocracoke to Hatteras please wait until you get north of Oregon Inlet until you attempt to get gas or lodging as they are facing shortages themselves.

9 replies »

  1. I’ve read several news articles about the mandatory evacuation and see no mention of visitors there by private boat. I assume most would be hooked up to dockside power or, at the very least, using essential services such as diesel/gasoline to run their generators. Must they evacuate too?

  2. So, can people staying in a tent, using no electric at all in the National Park Campgrounds still camp?

  3. Tom get a grip like you never filled up your lawnmower generator Weedeater exedra, I’m surprised you didn’t say he should be using yellow gas cans for diesel LOL thanks for the update Ocracoke Observer